Trump plane takes off in Florida, heads to New York for court surrender
NEW YORK/PALM BEACH, Florida — A plane carrying former US President Donald Trump took off from a Florida airport bound for New York City on Monday as he prepared to face charges stemming from an investigation into hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election.
With New York taking security precautions and the mayor insisting any would-be rabble-rousers behave, Trump was due to surrender at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday and will likely be fingerprinted prior to appearing before a judge for an arraignment where he will plead not guilty.
Trump, a Republican seeking to regain the presidency in 2024, is the first former US president to face criminal charges. Trump has hired Todd Blanche, a prominent white-collar criminal defense lawyer and a former federal prosecutor, to lead his defense, said two sources familiar with the matter.
The specific charges in the grand jury indictment have yet to be disclosed. Trump has said he is innocent, and he and his allies have portrayed the charges as politically motivated.
A motorcade of several vehicles transported Trump from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach to the airport in nearby West Palm Beach. Trump and members of his entourage climbed a set of stairs and entered his plane, painted in red, white, and blue with TRUMP in big letters on the side and an image of the American flag on the tail.
Earlier Trump said on social media he would go to Trump Tower in Manhattan after arriving in New York, then would head to the courthouse on Tuesday morning.
Before his plane departed, small groups of Trump fans waited to show their support at the airport and on his route to get there.
“Our country needs him,” said Cindy Falco, 65, of Boynton Beach, Florida. “He’s pro-God, pro-family and pro-country.”
Falco predicted exoneration, saying: “Nothing is going to stick to him.”
Trump raises funds for his indictment
Trump’s campaign issued a fundraising email taking aim at the media’s reporting on his indictment.
Remarks attributed to Trump in the email stated: “Our country has fallen. But I’m not giving up on America. We can and we will save our nation in 2024.”
His campaign said Trump raised more than $4 million in the 24 hours following the news of his indictment.
A court official said the arraignment was planned for 2:15 p.m. (1815 GMT) on Tuesday. Trump then will return to Florida and deliver remarks from Mar-a-Lago at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday (0015 GMT on Wednesday), his office said.
Trump is expected to appear before Justice Juan Merchan, the judge who presided over a criminal trial last year in which Trump’s real estate company was convicted of tax fraud. Trump himself was not charged in that case.
A court official said the judge would decide on Monday whether to allow cameras and video in the courtroom.
Trump wrote on social media on Friday that Merchan “HATES ME” and also has assailed the prosecutor on the case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
New York police over the weekend began erecting barricades along the edge of the sidewalks around Trump Tower and the Manhattan Criminal Court building downtown. Media crews set up close to Trump Tower and some spectators lined up nearby.
One passerby walked by shouting, “Lock him up,” as others behind him clapped. A Trump supporter shouted back, “Lock Bragg up.”
‘Be on your best behavior’
Demonstrations were expected at those sites on Tuesday and police said they were prepared.
“While there may be some rabble-rousers thinking about coming to our city tomorrow (Tuesday), our message is clear and simple: Control yourselves. New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger,” Mayor Eric Adams told reporters.
“As always, we will not allow violence or vandalism of any kind. And if one is caught participating in any act of violence, they will be arrested and held accountable no matter who you are,” Adams added, specifically mentioning Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has announced plans to protest.
“Be on your best behavior,” the mayor said.
Other courtrooms on the courthouse’s higher floors will be shut down before the arraignment as part of the security precautions, a court official said.
Before the indictment, the grand jury heard evidence about a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the waning days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Daniels has said she was paid to keep silent about a sexual encounter she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006. Trump denies having had any such relationship with her.
Trump, 76, served as president from 2017 to 2021 and in November launched a bid to win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, aiming to deny Democratic President Joe Biden a second term in office.
The indictment may have boosted his candidacy, at least in the short term.
“Now I am absolutely voting for Trump,” said Larry White, 75, a Nevada musician who had previously considered backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination. “The indictment was the last straw for me because Trump has suffered so much political abuse.”
The New York case is one of several probes Trump faces.
A local prosecutor in Georgia is investigating whether Trump unlawfully sought to overturn his 2020 election defeat in that state. A special counsel named by US Attorney General Merrick Garland separately is pursuing two criminal investigations, one involving efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and the other relating to classified documents he retained after departing the White House in 2021.